Title: Locating Queer Possibilities: LGBTQ+ Folks Negotiating Community and Belong in Idaho, 1996-2011
Program: Master of Arts in History
Advisor: Dr. Lisa McClain, History
Committee Members: Dr. Leslie Madsen, History, and Dr. Rebecca Scofield, History
Americans—regardless of their sexual orientation or home state—generally assume that Idaho is hostile towards queer folks. Linking rurality to homophobia and bigotry, they believe queer people are safer and happier in metropolitan settings with visible queer communities. However, the lived experiences of queer Idahoans reveal that LGBTQ+ people have built communities and found belonging around the state, even outside the state’s most populous city, Boise. Whereas queer people in urban areas like San Francisco historically emphasized the ways they differed from the straight public, queer Idahoans found safety and belonging by emphasizing their similarities with straight people. Through archival research including newspaper editorials written by queer folks and their allies, and oral histories collected from Idahoans throughout the state, this thesis explores how queer Idahoans have negotiated their relationship to the Gem State. Queer Idahoans built community based on their beliefs about place, comparing their communities at city, regional, and state levels to how they imagined queer people lived elsewhere. Some queer people found the state’s atmosphere repressive to LGBTQ+ existence, but others found joy and even liberation in the possibilities available in Idaho. This publication is the first academic thesis about queerness in Idaho, a state often neglected by academic analyses.